What You Need to Know about R-22
How to Tell if Your HVAC Unit Uses R-22 Refrigerant
For first-time homeowners, the subject of their air conditioning or heat pump refrigerant may be new territory. Refrigerants are chemicals that often transition from a liquid state to a gaseous state while cycling inside of your HVAC unit, and they are essentially the reason that your cooling system cools your home.
While the refrigerating chemicals in your A/C or heat pump help to produce the cool air you so desperately need during the sweltering summer months here in Georgia, it’s important to take note of the phasing out of the popular refrigerant R-22, and how that will affect you and your HVAC unit.
What is R-22?
R-22 is a type of refrigerant that is also called HCFC-22 or Chlorodifluoromethane. For decades, R-22 was the cooling agent of choice for pretty much all residential A/C and heat pump systems, but in 1989 it was discovered that the Earth’s ozone layer was developing a hole that was worsened by certain chemicals released into the atmosphere.
Because of this discovery, a multinational treaty was created to begin reducing the use of harmful chemicals that could further deplete the ozone layer. Refrigerants were a top priority, and it was soon revealed that R-22 was especially dangerous. R-22 was found to not only to be a threat to the ozone, but it’s also a greenhouse gas that contributes to global warming.
How to Determine if Your Air Conditioner or Heat Pump Uses R-22:
1. Check the Nameplate
On many units, there is a nameplate that has important information displayed, such as the refrigerant used, electrical ratings, and other safety information. If you have a central air conditioner, make sure to go outdoors and check the condensing unit as well.
2. Check the Owner’s Manual
If you still have the original manual that came with your cooling system, information on just about every facet of your A/C or heat pump should be easily located within the booklet or papers.
3. Research the Manufacturer and Model
If you can’t seem to find the answers you’re looking for about the type of refrigerant used, try to locate the model of your unit and either give the manufacturer a call, or visit their web site for more information.
4. Call an HVAC Technician
If all else fails, having a certified HVAC technician to come out and inspect the unit will certainly do the trick. A technician will be able to give you all of the information you need, as well as professional advice for any alternative units or refrigerants.
What to Do if Your Cooling System Uses R-22
The fact that your air conditioning system or heat pump utilizes R-22 does not automatically mean you have to start making plans to purchase new equipment, although that is an option.
The phasing out of R-22 is currently in effect, but it is a step-by-step process designed with consideration that many older residential units are still using the chemical. As time goes on, R-22 is being produced in more limited numbers, and will therefore become more expensive. By 2020, production of R-22 will cease altogether. Although the total phase-out of R-22 is closing in, homeowners will still be able to purchase and use R-22 for their home cooling systems for several more years, at which point homeowners would have been generally advised to upgrade to a newer and more efficient model anyway.
While using R-22 until it is no longer easily available is an option, homeowners should do so with respect to the environment. This means scheduling routine HVAC inspections of your system to make sure there are no leaks or damages, and receiving professional repairs to your unit as soon as the need arises. Other options include converting your R-22 system to one that uses the more environmentally-friendly R-410A, or purchasing more ecologically-safe equipment. In those situations, it would be best to contact a heating and cooling specialist and get quality advice about your specific concerns.